Don’t get “too” excited – yet…
This desert city will soon play host to the Soccer World Cup and it’s quickly becoming one of the most talked about cities on earth. Before you and the floods of other travelers venture into Qatar, there are a few things you should know before your first trip to Doha. In short: it’s like going to a hotel before it’s ready to open.
Here are a few helpful and practical tips to help you enjoy a seamless journey.
Qatar Airways is one of the best airlines in the world, with direct flights to Doha from countless countries around the world. We recently voted their business class the best in the business. But when you get to Doha, you’ll need a visa.
Fortunately, Qatar recently expanded its Visa On Arrival program to citizens of over 80 countries. Previously, most people hoping to enter the country needed a Visa arranged in advance – now you can simply receive one upon arrival. Confirm your nationality is eligible for Visa On Arrival – here.
Uber works in Qatar. However, the airport taxi companies are owned by the government and Uber drivers are often threatened or dissuaded from picking passengers up at the airport. Absolutely fire up the Uber app, but just be aware of this in advance. Taxis will also work just fine, from approved taxi ranks. If you’re unsure – arrange transportation via your hotel in advance.
The drive into most city hotels is not a long one, so figure less than a half hour door to door, and an insanely cheap fare.
In our opinion, Doha is not quite ready for business, at least not in the “wow, this place is amazing” tourism sense. That’s not to say you won’t have an amazing time basking in the abundant sun – but the city of Doha is currently a huge construction site.
The downtown area is gorgeous, but many of the attractions for tourists such as the Katara Cultural Center are being built and are not fully ready.
If however you’re coming purely to enjoy huge buffet spread and to relax at a resort pool, you’ll have a wonderful time. Like many of its neighbours, Qatar does hospitality very well. If you’re coming for anything else, perhaps hold off for a couple years.
There are two ways to earn free hotel nights in Qatar. First: Qatar Airways offers a free night on all flights which stopover in Qatar via their +Qatar stopover program. This applies to both economy and business class tickets. Second: Starwood Hotels has partnered with Mastercard to offer free nights in Qatar all year for multiple night stays. Full details here.
Common sense would be the rule of law here. Especially when visiting amazing museums such as the Museum of Islamic Art, respectful clothing is advised. And by the way, the Museum Of Islamic Art was our favourite attraction, in part due to its iconic architecture.
Hijabs are not required in most of the city, but dressing conservatively is the smartest way to be. At the hotel pool however, go crazy – within reason. In other words: show respect to local customs when out at restaurants or in public areas, just as you would anywhere else.
Spoiler alert: the souks are almost entirely tourist traps – especially Souq Waqif.
Though they’ve been built to resemble something ancient – they’re brand new and have a history which is more than likely much shorter than yours. Do not get any Arabian fairy tale ideas while buying mass produced goods here. The food however, is solid.
Katara cultural village will eventually be an upscale place to hang out and enjoy a variety of things from movies to big nights out – but for now, it’s under construction, like most things. Maybe next year?
You can buy alcohol in Qatar – but only in hotels. And you can’t bring it into the country with you – though you can purchase some on your way out, at Duty Free. Repeat: you cannot bring alcohol into the country of Qatar.
You won’t be able to grab a drink at standard restaurants. Expect prices to be inflated to account for the strict import of alcohol. Many Qatar Airways tickets also include Duty Free discounts, just FYI. Qatar also recently imposed a “sin tax” which makes drinking in your hotel bar more expensive than ever.
Almost all the cultural things you may want to do are along the waterfront either on the city or Corniche side. The view from the Museum of Islamic Art is stunning. The waterfront is calm, peaceful and offers nice walks – perhaps once the sun has cooled down a bit. Doha is a very safe city, so feel free to wander and explore anything that catches the eye. It’s beautiful coastline.
Why spend any time or money here? This country is ROGUE!! Ill fly the airline on points and stop over but will not buy anything or leave the airport. Do your research into Qatar. Read about the laws, their history. No need to step foot on Qatari soil or spend a dollar in their shops/resorts. There are so many amazing places in the world, go there first!
Mr. You must have done homework about Qatar before you write nagative. First of this is the peace state in the world at present. No crime no violence if you want peace in the world that you find it in Qatar only. People are so helpful and friendly.
My free advice to you must visit once and then comment
Uber works well, and no problems getting picked up at the airport. It is also, as one might imagine, less expensive than taking a taxi.
The Museum of Islamic Art is free and worthwhile.
The rooftop bar atop the Doubletree is also worth a visit.
I always use Uber from the Airport and I have never had a problem or heard that the driver being threatened by anyone.
I have loved here in Qatar for coming close to a year. The Qataris in general are good people. They are hard to get used to at first but you will. Women are treated well here. Women from Southeast Asia that live here walk down the street in blue jeans and tank tops without issue. The Arab women normally wear either a burka or hajab. Women drive, work in private or government positions and go to the shopping malls by themselves without issue. It’s not like Saudi Arabia. The food is great. Don’t go to an American restaurant. Go to a local hole in the wall it’s great. Avoid summer unless you want to loose ten pounds in water weight. If you have the chance to come here for a week I would do it. More then a week you’d run out of stuff to do that’s Qatari in nature.
All in mind I actually feel comfortable in this country no one bothers you, I see very little crime and the exchange rates are amazing.
Maureen, Qatar is a beautiful city, its growing and although there are many building sites, the roads are much better now than before. Souq Waqif is a place where people go to see and be seen. The dress for ladies is called arbaya mostly local ladies and ladies from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, etc wear them. Foreigners can wear what they like, only it’s better to wear sensible clothes outside hotels. There is a large cultural area called Katara it offers many things as well as access to the beach. Kissing in the street is frowned upon and not advisable. Alcohol is sold in hotels, but there are many hotels which don’t cater for alcohol, check when booking. There are bicycle paths and bicycles to rent. By March it starts to get hotter during the day, outside gets very hot. Always have a bottle of water in a back pack or handbag. Don’t drink alcohol on the street nor walk around drunk, you will certainly be picked up and put in jail. Qatar is very clean, the water here is clean , it comes from the sea and is desalinated. Traffic drives in the city 80-100 kph which makes crossing roads almost impossible, so use the traffic lights. Malls are bright and offer a large variety of high end products, but Qatar is not cheap, bargains are not bargains but poor quality being sold at (reduced) prices.
Qatar is one of the cleanest & safest city in the world.It’s a growing country. Development is reaching to the sky level.People are very good here.Rules & regulations are okay.Overall absolutely fantastic country.
Qatar is the country where expats treat as citizens.
Thank you Qatar…..
For me Qatar is one of the most amazing places to be. I have been there twice already and counting my days to go again. People are super sweet, especially locals. Standards super high, places very clean, super safe everywhere – you can literally leave your car open with the keys inside and do shopping and nobody will even bother. Food – OMG not enough place to write how good it is!
Can’t find one bad thing about this place, definitely recommend it to anyone!
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